The text message arrived on Feb. 10: Concordia University was closing.
For three local Cavalier commits, their collegiate dreams were suddenly in doubt.
“I felt immediate shock and panic,” said Ridgefield’s Brooke Weese, who had committed more than a year earlier to play soccer for the school. “There’s no such thing as a plan B when you’re committed that long.”
Washougal’s Payton Lindell, also a women’s soccer signee, was on the same group text as Weese. The two intended to room together.
Ridgefield’s MacKenzie Sparks, a track and field commit, heard the news later that day from a friend.
“It was obviously shocking,” Sparks said. “You have a plan one day and the next day you wake up and that plan is gone.”
Concordia was a Portland institution since 1905. It had recently become a member of NCAA Division II’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference. And it was a dream landing spot for Lindell, Sparks and Weese due to its proximity to home and quality of athletic and education programs.
“That day when I got home from school, I just started crying,” Lindell said. “All my admissions were in; it’s all set and you feel ready to go. I finally felt like I was done. It was a relief.
“And then all of a sudden, just nope.”
The trio of athletes didn’t dwell on the life-altering change of course for long. Within a day, all three were back in the hunt for a new team and school.
“I cried a lot; there was a lot of panic,” Weese said. “But in the end, there was nothing I could do. I don’t like to dwell on things unnecessarily.”
The second run through recruiting was undoubtedly different. Scholarship money for many teams was dwindling so late in the process of signing high school seniors. Roster spots, too, were far fewer.
While some coaches reached out trying to poach some of the Cavalier rosters, players had to take it upon themselves to contact colleges to keep their dreams alive.
Sparks, who stars in javelin, relied on contacts she had made during her initial recruitment including with the coach at Warner Pacific University, where she eventually signed. While Sparks was worried about what scholarship money might be left — some schools had none — Warner Pacific was able to give her a similar offer to Concordia.
“Things can get taken away from you,” Sparks said. “On the other side of it, there’s greater values you can learn from. That was really important and something that I maybe even needed to open my eyes and see that there’s more out there. Life isn’t just going to be full of things given to you.”
After a month of visiting schools, Lindell decided on Central Washington University, another GNAC school. She’ll play outside defender for the Wildcats and join Hockinson’s Megan Meindersee in the freshman class.
“I feel like there’s a lot to learn from the experience,” Lindell said. “You can be the person that says ‘maybe this is not for me’ or you can be the person who says ‘you know what? This is for the better.’ I’m going to be positive about it.”
Weese didn’t have to look far to find a coach she liked. Concordia’s coach Grant Landy was named the interim coach at Humboldt State in Arcata, Calif. He called Weese to offer her a spot on the team about a month after Concordia announced its closure.
“I was looking at some schools in Washington and Oregon at first but I wasn’t getting the same feel I got with Concordia. It didn’t feel like the right fit,” explained Weese, who will play forward for the Lumberjacks. “When I got the call from Grant, I instantly got excited.”
In the end, all three appreciated the unusual circumstances that brought them this unique, albeit stressful, moment in their lives.
Weese summarized: “I mean, when have you ever heard of something like this happening?”